WASHINGTON (Jun. 26)
Congress will allow the Ford Administration to make an additional economic loan of $58 million to Syria without opposition but with ample warning that further financial assistance will be opposed with floor action unless the plight of Syrian Jews is alleviated.
With the House going into a ten-day recess today, those who chose to make a fight against the second loan to the Damascus government have found they had virtually run out in their legislative time to block the Administration’s action On the first loan of $25 million granted earlier this year. Congress made no move to prevent it in view of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s preparation at the time for his ill-fated venture for a second Egyptian-Israeli interim agreement. Congressional supporters of a better atmosphere for Syrian Jews felt pressure against Syria would be considered by the Administration as jeopardizing the Kissinger mission. The Administration’s move to allow a second loan for Syria brought angry opposition at a hearing in which Administration policy was roundly scored as detrimental to American interests since principle was being sacrificed for pragmatic deals which, as Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal (D.NY) and others indicated have resulted in failure in other parts of the world.
FORD DID NOT RAISE EMIGRATION ISSUE
In addition to the opposition at a public hearing, 57 House members called on President Ford to take up the issue of harassment of Syrian Jews and refusal to allow them to emigrate with Syrian Foreign Minister Abdal Halim Khaddam during his visit here last weekend. The President, it appears, did not refer to the issue with Khaddam in their one-hour White House meeting, but Administration sources hinted that it was mentioned in “diplomatic channels.”
“Our general policy for supporting free emigration is known to the government of Syria,” a White House spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reporter who had inquired whether the President had expressed concern to Khaddam over Syrian Jews. “This matter is handled in diplomatic channels which we consider the most effective and appropriate means of addressing this issue,” the spokesman added. “I would not want to comment any more specifically than that.” Both in their letter to the President and at the hearing, Congressmen charged that granting financial aid to Syria without improvement in the lot of the remaining 4500 Syrian Jews violated the U.S. Foreign Assistance Law.
Noting that the long overdue presentation by the Administration of its Foreign Aid Program for the new fiscal year for Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria will probably be presented early in July, advocates of assistance to Syrian Jews indicate they will center their efforts to block financial aid to Syria in the program for the coming year. Under the current program Syria may get up to $100 million and with the second loans, all but $17 million of that has been already pledged. Daniel Parker, director of the Agency for International Development (AID), is to appear before the House International Relations Committee July 10. It is at this hearing that the Administration will be pressed to show how Syria has eased its restrictions on emigration of Jews and there by become eligible for further American benefits.